Before MARDEC started to buy liquid latex from the small holders, rubber tappers have to turn those liquid latex into sheets, dry them up and then only it is saleable. They leave in the wee hour of the morning bringing their tools to extract latex from the rubber trees. From tree to tree they would toil and cut a layer of the rubber skin to extract rubber, which falls into a small cup. These latex are collected using to pails (carried over their shoulder with a long stick) with each pails hanging at each end of the stick. These latex are then carried to the 'machine' where it will be transformed into dry rubber sheets (gotah koping).
The latex are poured into a 24" by 12" container of about 6" deep. Depending on the amount of latex collected for the day, it may vary from 4 to 8 containers. It is stirred slowly to ensure that the latex and the water are even out in the container. Acid is added to the latex in the containers and once again stirred to ensure that the acid and the latex are mixed well together. It is then left to dry for about 30 minutes, so as to get the mixture ready for squeezing at the 'machine'. The ready for squeezing latex is then rolled in between rollers on the 'machine' until it is approximately 1/4 or an inch thick or when all water have been squeezed out. When it is 'ready' it will then be rolled over the 'machine with patterns' to create a sheet of rubber with patterns on it.
These still wet latex sheets are then put to dry and stored. Drying of these sheet latex may take up to a few days. When it is 'dried' only than it will be taken to the 'peraih gotah' (middleman rubber trader) at the small town for sale. At that time, late 1960s, dry latex sheets would reap approximately RM0.35 sens a 'kati'. Rubber tappers will take a holiday whenever it rains. As if it rains, collecting latex from the cup at the rubber trees will only have more water than latex; which would be a useless effort to carry back. Squeezing it through the machine will only produce so much rubber sheets.
I was a rubber tapper.
2 weeks ago